8 reasons cloud gaming is a game-changer for mobile app marketers
If you’ve experienced App Clips on iOS or Instant Apps on Android, you already know part of the power of cloud gaming.
- Click a link.
- Play a game.
That’s it. Nothing else to do. No long circuitous route from app to ad to app marketplace to your mobile device home screen to finding an icon somewhere on your app screens to tapping it and finally playing a game.
(And no Apple or Google rules about what you can or can’t do.)
Now.gg is a new cloud gaming startup launched by the team behind Bluestacks, which has 500 million gamers and is a Singular ROI Index honoree. Bluestacks is a mobile-games-on-the-web service, providing a place to play Android games on desktop computers. But Now.gg will allow any game developer to publish games for instant access on the cloud wherever they wish … and market them with a simple link.
No download required. And a million-plus Android games work on the platform with a few minor tweaks.
If cloud gaming is the future, Now.gg might be the platform that ungates mobile games from the iOS App Store and Android’s Google Play. Then again, Google Play and the App Store are fantastic places for many gaming publishers to monetize, and Now.gg can seamlessly transition cloud players to mobile app installers and long-term dedicated game players.
Watch the interview with Now.gg’s Ben Armstrong:
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Cloud gaming is the new gold rush
There is no shortage of companies rushing to cash in on cloud gaming. Google Stadia, Facebook Gaming, Amazon Luna, and Microsoft xCloud are just some of the big tech companies that are attacking the space and competing with PlayStation, GeForce, NVIDIA, Steam, and literally dozens of cloud gaming startups.
The promise is spectacular: play now, play anywhere, play on any device.
Where that promise has yet to be fully proven is great game-play, every time, without hiccups. Naturally, it’s getting better as bandwidth improves, 5G continues to roll out, and platforms get better. Some players, like Facebook, started with simple games that don’t require wide internet pipes for satisfying gaming.
Now.gg, however, sees cloud gaming as a different kind of opportunity: the ability to level the playing field on how powerful a mobile device you need to play a certain game.
“When we all started out as teenagers, maybe we didn’t have the best phones because that’s what mom and dad’s allowance got us,” says Ben Armstrong, a vice president at Now.gg. “But then as we find more and more games that we like to play and our phone quality increases … now we’ve got all this storage that is taken up with pictures and videos … so then we’re faced with, okay, do I delete all my pictures or do I play this game?”
In fact 40% of today’s mobile phones can’t handle the highest-end games and a full 60%, Now.gg says, are either low or mid-range phones that lack sufficient compute, storage, or both for performance-intensive games.
Cloud eliminates those challenges, of course. Load when needed, click away when finished. And, all the intensive compute operations happen on cloud-based servers, leaving the phone to simply display the action and receive gamers’ inputs.
Which brings up the biggest issue with cloud gaming, of course: latency.
“We have a global network of servers that enable you if you’re in South Korea to have a server that’s close to you in South Korea,” Armstrong says. “If you’re in Brazil, there’s a server close to you in Brazil. And that really helps out the latency.”
Listen to this story on Singular’s Growth Masterminds podcast
Cloud gaming changes mobile user acquisition for marketers
If the technology works as advertised, opening up cloud gaming for virtually every mobile game that matters is a game-changer for mobile marketers. And it has the potential to revolutionize how game publishers pursue user acquisition.
By now, mobile games user acquisition for iOS and Android is pretty much a known quantity. Where to buy ads, how to measure results, and what to do to optimize performance are not mysteries: while nothing about it is precisely easy, there are clear paths that winners have blazed to success. (Of course, there are always changes, and Apple’s iOS 14 and SKAdNetwork on iOS have changed the paradigm for iPhone and iPad games to a certain extent.)
But buying ads on mobile apps and directing traffic to Google Play and the App Store are significantly different propositions than marketing a web-based asset. In fact, marketing a web-based asset opens up a lot of opportunity for games marketers.
There are at least eight major game-changers when moving from mobile user acquisition to marketing a cloud-based game: some positive, and some negative.
1) No attention tax
Cloud games start instantly. That’s a major change to traditional mobile games, which require a certain amount of delayed gratification skills from users. As I mentioned off the top, downloading and installing a mobile game on either platform takes time, multiple steps, and multiple changes of context.
There’s a reason D1 retention for mobile games isn’t 100%: some apps never get opened.
Of course, you could have similar issues with cloud gaming. If you have a huge game that requires significant local resources, that exacts a different kind of attention tax.
2) Cheaper traffic from a wider variety of sources
Installs are costly. It’s not easy to get people to take the step of installing software packages on their devices. Far harder, in fact, than getting them to visit a website (see #3 below). Therefore, costs are high: especially when there’s a lot of change on the iOS side of the ecosystem.
Web traffic is a lot cheaper, and there’s tens of millions of places that you can get it from.
3) Lower psychological cost
Related to that: clicking a link has low psychological cost than installing software. A web browser that is built for accessing multiple locations feels safer than apps, which are known to have a certain degree of malware, adware, and spyware.
That means getting someone to try your game can be easier. Click a link, play for a few seconds, and then you can make a decision about whether you like a game and want to play it frequently.
4) Increased viewability and measurability
Web advertising measurability has its own challenges, but also has well-known and established methods of measurement (that Singular supports), which help marketers make marketing optimization decisions.
5) Cross-platform applicability
Cloud gaming is incredibly versatile. While not all platforms work this way, cloud gaming should make devices almost irrelevant. In testing Now.gg games, for instance, I played a game on an iPhone 11 Pro, a ZTE Axon Android phone, and Mac Os.
Phone … desktop … everything just works. That’s greater market addressability and more flexibility for where your users/customers can play.
If play anywhere matters to you, consider your user interface: how will it work on each of the major platforms and devices?
6) Influencer marketing becomes more actionable and trackable
Watch, click, play … and maybe even play along.
Influencer marketing for mobile user acquisition has been getting more measurable, but it’s always suffered from context displacement: leaving the environment where the influencer is … influencing … and getting the app. Now the app is a click away in a different tab or window. Instant gratification for the user, and embedded parameters making it measurable for the marketer.
7) Retention is even harder
Easy come, easy go is already one of the key rules of engagement for mobile app marketing. But when you can simply “uninstall” a game that has never actually been installed by just navigating away, retention becomes even more of a challenge.
Which is why …
8) Early gameplay and first impressions are huge
In the cloud, your game is a click away from being played. It’s also a click away from being forgotten. So a great first impression and fun, successful early gameplay are essential to set the hook and draw a first-time player into your game.
Tough gameplay, a long storyline, significant amounts of configuration, design of a ship, selection of weapons, or preparation to play are probably not great entry points for most players.
Pick the right game to be successful
Not every game that works on mobile will be successful on cloud gaming platforms.
There’s a huge amount of potential in cloud gaming, but that doesn’t guarantee success to anyone. Nor does it mean you should approach this opportunity by just relegating it to being a fine-we’ll-throw-our-games-there-just-to-see-what-happens opportunity. Throwing a game at a cloud gaming service just because it’s there is probably not a great option. You run the risk of wasting time and money. You also run brand risk: the risk that people see your logo and your game icon and associate it with something that’s less than awesome.
Cloud games that succeed will be reasonably quick to load. They’ll also be simple to play on different devices and platforms. They’ll start with a bang — maybe with a dedicated cloud gaming entry point — and they’ll be super-smart about only loading what’s needed for gameplay when it’s needed.
And they’ll probably also be aligned to the strengths and weaknesses of the cloud gaming platform itself: degree of latency, ease of access, barriers to transitioning to other platforms, and so on.
The simple way to kick the tires on cloud gaming is to throw a title at it. The smart way is to pick one very carefully and thoughtfully, and consider spending a few dollars and a bit of time to make it a great native cloud experience … even if you ultimately want players to install your games at some point.
Reasons to try cloud gaming
The question, of course, for busy mobile publishers is obvious: Why should I dip my toes into cloud gaming? We’re busy doing what we’re doing, and we don’t have a ton of resources to jump on additional initiatives.
That’s likely true for most.
Putting aside the fact that Now.gg specifically is designed to take your Android APK with a very minimal amount of customization, dipping your toe in cloud gaming future proofs your company against changes in future platforms. That means changes on each major publishing platform, and it means change in general in the gaming industry away from native games on each platform and towards always-available, playable anywhere, instant-on gaming experiences.
That might be nebulous and futuristic for busy developers and marketers.
But there’s also a hard and tangible near-term benefit, at least in the way that Now.gg is set up: easy conversion of cloud gaming tire-kickers to mobile app installs. That’s potentially a very inexpensive means of user acquisition even in traditional mobile channels. Even better for marketers, advertisers will be able to attribute mobile app installs back to the original web source where the user clicked on the ad.
That’s huge, and gives you measurability all the way through the user journey. The result: you can optimize, tweak, and improve conversion rates.
Need measurement for growth? Talk to Singular
And Singular’s deeply integrated with both Bluestacks and Now.gg to make all your user acquisition and growth tactics in those spaces measurable and optimizable.